Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The future of drones: Jacobs School alums weigh in

When Radley Angelo, class of 2015, spent weekends building and flying RC planes and helicopters with his dad and brothers, he never thought he was already building a foundation for his professional life. Angelo went on to become the CEO of Spark Aerial, a systems integration company that focuses on aerial robotics--meaning drones.

His path from freshman at the Jacobs School to CEO is documented in the latest issue of Triton Magazine, the university's alumni publication, in a story titled "Life Among the Drones."

During his time at UC San Diego, Angelo joined Engineers for Exploration, an organization designed to bring cutting-edge technology to the fields of archaeology and exploration. E4E, as it is also known, is led by Jacobs School alum Albert Lin and computer science professor Ryan Kastner. Members investigate digs anywhere from Lake Tahoe, to the jungles of Guatemala, to Mongolia.

Lin needed someone to drive the $20,000 drones he was using to try and find the tomb of Genghis Khan.  He recalls is the Triton story:
We were in a very remote location and had really great access to satellite imagery, but I wanted to be able to get a bird’s-eye view in areas that were more tree covered,” says Lin. “I found Radley, who was really into remote control helicopters, and took him with me.”
 The story also includes a section about the effort of Jacobs School alumnus Jay Guan to improve FAA regulations for drones. He says:

“On the surface, it seems like the FAA is a little squeamish about this,” says Guan. “But from what I’ve seen, the FAA doesn’t have anything against drones or commercial drones. It’s just that safety has always been an overriding concern, and right now there is no good way to ensure that drone operations won’t compromise that.”

Monday, September 28, 2015

Instagram #InternTakeover

As an intern for the Jacobs School of Engineering Communications team, I've had the opportunity to do everything from reaching out of my comfort zone when approaching professionals and professors to developing a better understanding of marketing, and more. To kick off the school year, I had the pleasure of documenting my first day of my sophomore year at UC San Diego. Follow me through my day as I go to CHEM 140A (organic chemistry), grab coffee and dinner with friends, visit the Birch Aquarium, and die laughing at the first Foosh show of the year:

A photo posted by UC San Diego Engineering (@ucsandiegoengineering) on

A photo posted by UC San Diego Engineering (@ucsandiegoengineering) on

A photo posted by UC San Diego Engineering (@ucsandiegoengineering) on

A photo posted by UC San Diego Engineering (@ucsandiegoengineering) on

A photo posted by UC San Diego Engineering (@ucsandiegoengineering) on

A photo posted by UC San Diego Engineering (@ucsandiegoengineering) on

Don't forget to follow the Jacobs School on Instagram @ucsandiegoengineering, and watch for more #takeovers from engineering student orgs!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Cute or creepy, this robot helped researchers figure out why babies smile

Whether you think it's creepy or cute, there is no denying that Diego-san, a toddler-like robot developed at the Qualcomm Institute here at UC San Diego, became a media darling this past week. The robot was part of a study where researchers tried to figure out why babies smile.
They programmed Diego-san to behave like the babies they studied and had him interact with undergraduate students. The study is part of an effort funded by the National Science Foundation to use robots to better understand human development. It gives developmental psychologists a tool for studying non-verbal children and adults, such as those with autism.
But for a lot of media outlets, it was all about the robot. IEEE Spectrum generously described Diego-san as "slightly uncanny." Other outlets were less charitable. Engadget,   the San Diego Union-Tribune and New York Magazine found the robot creepy. Motherboard was probably the most aggravated and called Diego-san horrifying.
Below is a video of the robot in action so you can make up your mind for yourself.
The full press release about the study is here.
Javier Movellan, one of the study's co-authors, will present related work on Oct. 30 at the Contextual Robotics Forum here at the Jacobs School.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Soft robots developed by Jacobs School engineers featured on SciShow

So Hank Green, brother of "Fault in Our Stars" and "Paper Towns" author John Green, just featured one of the robots designed by Jacobs School roboticist Michael Tolley. 

He developed with colleagues at Harvard the first robot with a 3D-printed body that transitions from a rigid core to a soft exterior. The robot made its debut in Science on July 10.

"We believe that bringing together soft and rigid materials will help create a new generation of fast, agile robots that are more robust and adaptable than their predecessors and can safely work side by side with humans,” Tolley said at the time in our press release
The idea of blending soft and hard materials into the robot’s body came from nature, Tolley said. For example, certain species of mussels have a foot that starts out soft and then becomes rigid at the point where it makes contact with rocks. “In nature, complexity has a very low cost,” Tolley said. “Using new manufacturing techniques like 3D printing, we’re trying to translate this to robotics.”

And indeed, Green featured the robot as part of a segment on biomimetics.
Enjoy the whole show, or fast-forward to the four-minute mark, where Green starts talking about Tolley's robot. 

Tolley and his students will be presenting some of their robotics work here on campus on October 30 at the Contextual Robotics Forum.  (UC San Diego alumni can register for half price.)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Materials science student wins Acta Student Award

Heemin Kang
Heemin Kang, a materials science graduate student at UC San Diego, has received an Acta Student Award. Kang is among 11 awardees who were selected for their contributions to papers published in Acta journals in 2014. Each award comes with a $2,000 cash prize and will be presented during an awards ceremony on Oct. 5 at the Materials Science & Technology meeting in Columbus, Ohio.

Kang was selected to receive the award for his work on biomimetic materials that induce stem cells to become bone-building cells. The research, led by bioengineering professor Shyni Varghese, was reported in the manuscript titled, “Mineralized gelatin methacrylate-based matrices induce osteogenic differentiation of human induced pluripotent stem cells,” which was published in the journal Acta Biomaterialia in Aug. 2014. Kang was the first author on this paper.

In this work, Kang and co-workers in Varghese’s Bio-Inspired Materials and Stem Cell Engineering Lab engineered matrices consisting of calcium phosphate minerals. Stem cells that were grown on these biomineralized materials transformed into cells that can build new bone.

“These engineered materials, coupled with stem cells, can be used to treat patients with critical bone defects and traumatic bone fractures,” said Kang. “This work is an exciting step towards accelerating stem-cell-based regenerative therapies.”

Left: Image of engineered bone-mimetic material containing calcium phosphate minerals. Right: Image of bone cells derived from the conversion of human induced pluripotent stem cells by the engineered mineralized material. Osteocalcin, a protein that can be solely produced by bone-forming cells, is shown in green.
Moreover, these materials are able to convert stem cells into bone-building cells in the absence of any bone-stimulating proteins or biochemicals. “Our study is the first to demonstrate a simple way to induce pluripotent stem cell differentiation, both in vitro and in vivo, using only these engineered biomaterials,” said Kang.

Kang’s interest in regenerative medicine was inspired by his time serving as a sergeant in the U.S. Army, where he encountered many injured soldiers. His aim is to become a professor and continue developing biomaterial-based regenerative therapies that can be used to treat injured soldiers and other patients suffering from bone defects and disorders.

Read more about related work in Varghese’s lab here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Center for Visual Computing / Video Conversation with Director Ravi Ramamoorthi

On this edition of Computing Primetime Ravi Ramamoorthi, director of the new UC San Diego Center for Visual Computing and a professor computer science is joined by two other faculty members on the interdisciplinary roster of UC San Diego researchers in the center: Cognitive Science professor Zhuowen Tu, and Qualcomm Institute research scientist Jurgen Schulze, who also teaches computer graphics in the Computer Science and Engineering department at the Jacobs School of Engineering. 

In a wide-ranging conversation, they discuss the three grand research themes that underpin VisComp activities: 
  • Mobile visual computing and digital imaging to capture, process and display the visual world with smartphones and other devices; 
  • Interactive digital (augmented) reality to allow us to render and mix real and virtual content seamlessly and realistically in real time, 
  • The ability to automate computer-based visual understanding of the world from small-scale underwater organisms to large cities. (#29675)